Interview with Dan Briggs of Trioscapes

The beginning of may saw the release of one of the most exhilarating and persistently captivating albums in the shape of Separate Realities from US fusion/progressive rock band Trioscapes. The band features the combined imagination and invention of Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Briggs, Walter Fancourt (tenor saxophone/flute), and Matt Lynch (drums, electronics). The album is an instinctive and cultured blaze of stunning creativity and technical skill which leaves one eager for much more. We had the great pleasure

Hi Dan and thank you for taking time out to talk with us at The RingMaster Review.

First question has to be when and where did the idea to form Trioscapes evolve?

It started in the summer of 2011. We all had open schedules that summer and it seemed like the right time to get something new going. There wasn’t a ton of thought that went into it really, no pre determined sound or any real goals. We just had the opportunity to play a show and I put the band together for it.

Were the three of you old friends and have you worked together before Trioscapes?

Not old friends, but I had known Matt for a few years, and Walter was a friend of a friend who I finally met earlier in 2011 and had a few talks with about music and playing together at some point in time. Walter and
Matt didn’t know each other at all before we were all in the same room together playing.

Was the original idea simply as the promo sheet suggests, to create your own interpretation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra classic “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters” or was there a deeper reason and older seed of an idea that took you into this musical adventure?

The reason for getting together was to play a show with my friend’s band that I had booked a show for in the town I live in. I called the two dudes and asked if they were familiar with the song and if they’d like to jam it
as well as a few other compositions I had, which ended up being “Blast Off” and “Curse of the Ninth”. We used that as the basis for everything we did.

What is it about that song and the band itself that connects with you?

I’ve loved Mahavishnu Orchestra since I was in high school. My dad had the “Bird of Fire” record and I just thought it was perfect. It’s psychedelic, it’s really intense with a lot of energy, the playing is just unreal…at
that point in time I had never heard those scales used in a really practical sense. John Mclaughlin continues to be a huge influence on me; his work in the 70s with Miles Davis, Mahavishnu, and Shakti is just huge.

As the album which we will talk about shortly shows, you did not just do a cover but gave it your own new breath, how easy was it to find that distinct identity without losing the essence of the original song?

If you follow along, the whole content of the original version is in the song. I learned Jan Hamer’s keyboard solo verbatim, and then have an improv bass solo, and then Walter takes a solo and that whole bit kinda
eats up the space where there was a trade-off solo between violin and guitar on the original. We were just wondering what exactly we were going to do to it to expand on it and really make it our own. I didn’t want to
add another solo section, but just from jamming the song over and over up to that point the bridge section developed. The song is in a G overtone scale, which has a c# in it that sticks out and I thought it’d give it a
nice spin to have the bridge have a c# diminished sort of sound. It made it really dark, but still was in the 19/16 time of the rest of the song and in the same scale just starting on a different note. It was a lot of
fun to put together and one of our favorites to play live.

At what point did making the song turn into a possible live performance and even more so a full project with an album in its sights?

The live performance was the whole reason the thought for the band came together, and the idea to really expand on it was just after we were in the same room together. All the work we were putting into the music we just knew there had to be more of a future for the band. We had most of the record put together for the first show, so we had one more writing session afterwards where we wrote “wazzlejazzlebof” and “Gemini’s
Descent”.

What have you gained or found distinctly and rewardingly different from your musical ‘day jobs’ with Trioscapes?

Any time you play with different people you always learn new things and it impacts your writing and understanding of music. It’s my favorite thing about playing with other people. This group offers me the chance to have more of a lead role, but also more of a bass player’s role where I get to vamp on a groove for a while and just lock in with Matt to form a solid rhythm.

As mentioned you have just released your wonderful album Separate Realities and with such an immense and openly varied and unpredictable release it is hard to know where to start haha, so please tell us your intentions and thoughts as you began creating a full album. Was there any central premise to it?

Not really nah! We literally just wanted to record everything we had written that summer. It felt like we had enough material to do a full length and that the music properly captured our sessions together that summer.

As  a non songwriter any song seems a difficult job to get right with structure and ideas but the pieces on the album have more twists and turns and a seemingly  unbridled free form of composing within what is, one suspects a well thought out and crafted frame, so how do you approach your music, where is the beginning point?

It’s different for every song. The songs I came in with were just products of jamming. I don’t usually write just one riff, it’s usually a series of things put together with maybe a larger idea for the song. In the case of “Blast Off” and “Curse of the Ninth” it was whole songs. Other songs Walter would come over and play me a few melodies that he thought went together in the same song and I’d jot them down and start working on rhythm ideas behind them and then a whole ton of parts would stem from playing around with the lines he wrote. I love that stuff because it’s parts I never would have thought of on my own, it was Walter’s line that
got me thinking on that wavelength.

The opposite question is when do you know when to stop in such free running and intricate pieces? Is it as hard to find the point when things work and to resist continually adding or tweaking, as it is to start a song?

Nah, once you get mid way through a song you can see the rest of the composition layout in your head and it all falls into place. Sometimes you write something that you know you want to lead up to and then it’s a matter of working backwards and getting up to that point. It’s different for every song, but you never really just stumble onto the end. It’s always very well thought out.

Is there a firm connection to the tracks on the album, it feels like there is something but not as open to reveal  the truth either way or I am just missing it haha.

There isn’t, but it was all written in the same burst with each other so I think there’s sort of a natural connection to the songs. It’d be fun to write something in the future that’s super cohesive and purposefully fits together.

Often it feels as if especially Walter was bringing some inspired improv to the compositions but one suspects it was more structured than that, what was the reality?

The songs and solo structures are all laid out, it’s just what he’s playing within that 16 bars or whatever that changes from time to time. We spend a lot of time on our arrangements and structures. I don’t have a ton
of interest in super free form stuff; everything is very planned out in our songs.

Your bass play was as we have come to expect from your work with Between the Buried and Me striking and inventive but also more instinctive and enjoying a freedom that maybe BTBAM does not allow space for?

BTBAM’s music is just always changing so quickly, there’s not a ton of times where I get to lay back and vibe out in the same feel for a very long time. A song like “Gemini’s Descent” is literally built around two sections. I loved doing that, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It was the perfect opportunity to mess around with different structures. No rules ever.

Matt is the frame that allows the songs to expand and for their imagination to burst forth but he too displays great invention and ingenuity within the songs. Was there a careful planning on when you each could explore your ideas so as not to veer towards a chaotic outcome or was it again just instinct within all of when you could investigate your individual play and ideas?

Matt’s just a maniac and is in his own universe. There was a few times we went back and forth kind of scaling back figuring out where the right groove was, but he hears rhythms in such a different way that it’s fun to see what he comes up with. His midi pads obviously add a whole other dynamic into the mix that really opens up new opportunities for us to explore new sounds.

Without guitars, Walter and you are the ‘face’ of the songs with Walter bringing the solos and ‘filling the space’ from bass, and drums primarily alongside his sax. How difficult was that to get right and expand into?

It all happened naturally. We really put these songs together pretty quickly, and we didn’t know what we sounded like really. We were just flying by the seat of our pants arranging and writing. It was a ton of
fun. The bass and sax operate at such different frequencies it was cool to see how unison lines really sounded in the studio or trade-off lines.

As with the band Morkobot where it is just bass guitars and drums, do you think you and Separate Realities will inspire but more so open up non guitarists to the possibilities they can bring forth to their craft and individual bands?

I think it’s just opening up some people who aren’t used to hearing any sort of “fusion” music to something new. They’ve been listening to bands for years probably that are influenced by jazz and fusion artists, so I
hope it’s a gateway for people. We’re always talking about our influences, whether it be Mahavishnu or Frank Zappa or what, so hopefully it’s just inspiring a new generation of fans to get into that great music from the 70s.

It might cause some fights too when bassists outshine guitarists? Haha

People need only listen to Primus.

With your music seemingly having its own intent of where it wants to go as it is played do you look at the album and still feel the pieces are in evolution and are still imagining possibilities within them or are they at their final form?

No everything is very meticulously thought out. We got to the studio and just played it like we had demoed it and then we jam it like that live. We’ve got a few parts of the set that we embellish and try new things to
get into songs, but we’re like a rock band in that sense. The songs are the songs as they’re written.

I have to admit it is hard to describe your sound to people without leaving a long list of ‘labels’ on the floor, how would you explain it to newcomers?

A mix of fusion and progressive rock/metal.

I guess the most important question is will there be more from Trioscapes?

Yeah definitely, we have little bits written. Our record just came out last week so maybe we’ll talk about that in another year or two.

And further live performances?

We’ve got plans to be out a little bit this summer and then in the fall. We’ll be staying busy and trying to cover as much ground as we can for sure.

Once more many thanks for sharing your time to bring us great insight into you and your music.

Would you like to end with any words for those discovering your fine album and a few of the influences that have had most impact on the music you personally brought to Trioscapes?

Well, like I said earlier I was all hopped up on Zappa and King Crimson and Mahavishnu last summer when we were writing. Walter and I were sharing bands back and forth, and we still do all the time. It’s a really fun
dynamic we have between the three of us and I’m excited to see where it goes.

Read the Separate Realities review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/trioscapes-separate-realities/

The RingMaster Review 17/05/2012

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Trioscapes: Separate Realities

Exhilarating and persistently captivating the debut album from Trioscapes is quite simply stunning. Separate Realities leaves thoughts and senses aflame with a creativity and technical skill that incites the fullest and most eager connections and responses. A combination of 70s fusion with progressive rock the release is a cultured yet seemingly instinctive and raw creature which stirs up feelings and conjures an infection that runs deep.

Trioscapes is the union of bassist Dan Briggs (Between the Buried and Me), Walter Fancourt (tenor saxophone/flute), and Matt Lynch (drums, electronics). The band came about when in the summer of last year Briggs contacted Fancourt with the idea of reworking the classic Mahavishnu Orchestra track Celestial Terrestrial Commuters. With other ideas formed as well the band played an one off intended live show but such the fun from that and the demands the music asked of them that they decided to stick with it as an ongoing project. October 2011 saw them entering a studio with Jamie King in Winston-Salem, N Carolina and from the other side stepped forth Separate Realities.

Released via Metal Blade Records the album is a burly yet concentrated animal, a primitive but distinctly technical and imaginative entity that can snarl or whisper in the ear and disrupt or induce rapture within the senses. The instrumental soundscapes the trio bring forth are living breathing pieces which define their own path and effectiveness within each individual. They invite and manipulate with a catchy engagement and openly startling concoctions that for many will lead to the nearest exit but for a great many more will incite an infectiously keen willingness to immerse further within the excited but composed progressive invention. Predominantly just tenor sax, bass and drums with a few extras and distortions, each track is a full and powerful slice of sound and energy.

The first song Blast Off explores the ear first lifting one into giddy heights to leave a shortness of breath whilst clasping the thrilling unpredictability tightly to the chest. Initially coming over as a jazz led piece it spreads into a wider soak of sounds laced with a funk pulse and hypnotic drive pierce with ventures from an exhaustive scuzzy bass and flaunting warm sax. It is the gnarly bass moments of Briggs that steal the already staggering show; his play much more of a brewing coarse primal energy and sound than in his day job.

The title track next steps into view and immediately lifts a strong start to Separate Realities to a higher plain. It niggles and persuades the senses to open up even more before filling them with a composition that looks into the chaotic jaws of indulgence but never steps in. With tight aggression coupled with a humour through slithers of cartoon moments, the track is a compulsive siren, a bewitching pulsating and agitated piece of brilliance. The sax of Fancourt assumes the face of the song whilst the bass of Briggs the blood and veins which bring heart and depth. With the excellent rhythms and creativity of Lynch the bones and framework all wraps around it is a mighty and deeply pleasing piece of ingenuity.

The more muscular Curse Of The Ninth with scorched melodies from the sax of Fancourt sparking against the prowling antagonistic bass of Briggs offers another varied and different adventure. Blending in further variations of sound it is an emotive and flavoursome track which plays with light and dark with the surest of touch. The closing lighter and dazzling Gemini’s Descent also offers up a distinctly unique palate to lay inspired thoughts and feelings upon, its peaceful and imaginative land a bubbling aural forest.

Wazzlejazzlebof was the one track which it was hard to fully engage with though the more time spent with it the closer one becomes. For the only time on Separate Realities it felt like the band had strolled in to improv and at times its meanderings missed the mark though at other moments it unerringly found the spot.

With the excellent Celestial Terrestrial Commuters included, the reinterpretation by Trioscapes a more chilled and less intimidating version than the original, Separate Realities is a masterful and voracious pleasure. It will not be for everyone as a whole though there is something for all tastes enjoying adventure and intriguing melodic enterprise. Hopefully Trioscapes will continue creating and thrilling as special does not truly cover the experience inside of Separate Realities.

Ringmaster 11/05/2012

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